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Japan won’t send government delegation to Beijing Olympics

 

Bloomberg

Japan won’t send any government representatives to the Beijing Winter Olympics, effectively throwing its support behind the US-led diplomatic boycott of the games that start in February.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno announced that Japan would dispatch three top members of the teams that helped organize this year’s Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. He added the government had reached its own decision on the matter and was not using the term “diplomatic boycott” to describe it.
“Our country believes it is important that the universal values of freedom, basic human rights and the rule of the law be guaranteed in China,” Matsuno told reporters, when asked about the reasons for the move. “As Tokyo 2020 showed, the Olympics and Paralympics are a festival of peace and sport that gives courage to the world.”
The decision came after growing pressure from conservatives within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party to join in the protests by wealthy democracies against alleged human rights abuses by China. The choice was a particularly hard one for Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who must tread a fine line between the US, his country’s only military ally, and China, Japan’s biggest trading partner.
Beijing which had warned boycotting countries they would “pay a price for their wrong moves,” did not fire any rhetorical barbs at its neighbor.
“China welcomes the participation in the Beijing Winter Olympics by the Japanese delegation. We will act upon the Olympic spirit of togetherness and are confident that we will present a streamlined and splendid Olympic event to the world,” Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesman Zhao Lijian said in Beijing.
Japan will send Yasuhiro Yamashita, head of the Japan Olympic Committee and Seiko Hashimoto, head of the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee, to the Beijing Games. Kazuyuki Mori, head of the Japan Paralympic Committee, will attend the Paralympics, Matsuno said.
Among other prominent US allies, Australia, Canada and the UK are joining the Biden administration’s diplomatic boycott, while South Korea and France are not. Paris is set to host the next Summer Games in 2024. New Zealand has said it won’t send diplomatic representatives, but cited concerns over Covid-19 as the reason.
All the countries joining the diplomatic boycott will allow their athletes to compete.
Tokyo welcomed only a sprinkling of foreign government delegates to the Summer Games it hosted this year, which coincided with the country’s worst wave of virus cases.
“I appreciate this as effectively a diplomatic boycott,” said Masahisa Sato, one of the lawmakers who had called for the move, adding it should have been announced sooner. The US and other countries “may have been worried that Japan is more concerned about the economy than about human rights,” he added.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in early December the US decided not to send any diplomatic or official representation “given the PRC’s ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang, and other human rights abuses,” referring to China by its formal name.
China regularly hits back at the genocide accusations leveled by the US government and others, calling them “the lie of the century.”

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